The first travel-related death has been reported from Maryland. According to officials, the individual who had returned from Canada died of complications last Friday. The official statement said, “We are very saddened to report the first death due to the Powassan virus in our state,” Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman said in the release. “Powassan is very rare, and this is the first-ever case recorded in Maryland. The individual contracted the virus in Canada and returned to Maryland afterward.”
The disease has been identified as the Powassan virus is developed in humans due to a tick bite. Known as Flavi virus it is commonly found in North American countries. What makes it dangerous is the fact that it can be dormant for over 1 month without showing any symptoms.
When contracted the person could have fever, headache, and vomiting. If not treated it could develop into encephalitis or meningitis. As per CDC’s website, it can kill one in 10 people which is a huge number. Moreover, it states, “Approximately half of the people who survive severe disease have long-term health problems such as recurring headaches, loss of muscle mass and strength, and memory problems.”
Considering the severity of the situation the officials further issued a warning stating “to practice good habits when in areas that could have ticks or avoid those areas altogether.” The last case of fatality occurred 4 years before in New York. The authorities therefore want everyone to be cautious about their surroundings.
Since the disease shows no symptoms authorities are warning people who have a traveling history to come for a test voluntarily. A test of your spinal fluid or blood can always reveal the virus even if isn’t active in your body. Officials feel the situation is still under control considering the fact that it is in no way communicable. This means the person has to be bitten by the tick to test positive for the virus.
Mingling or taking care of an infected person is in no way dangerous. However, the symptoms themselves could affect others as well. The officials reiterated, “We do not believe that Powassan poses any threat of local transmission in Maryland.” While this provides a sigh of relief, it hardly addresses the issue at hand.
A change in the immune system can be the reason why people are being more exposed to viruses of this nature. Though evidence doesn’t exactly point in that direction, the University of Michigan revealed in its study, “ Like many other viruses, it’s been shown to evade host immunity, particularly newer variants. This is concerning, but it’s not clear that such changes impact immunity to other infections.” The virus they refer to is COVID-19 and its long-term effects are yet to be uncovered.
The study also supports the idea that each person has had a different response to the disease and that could be why some of them have it in their immune system longer than 6 months. Nevertheless, the medical status of the deceased has not been made public yet. So there is no way of knowing the implications that led to his untimely death.
The officials are also ignoring the fact that the disease doesn’t respond to antibiotics of any kind. The symptoms could be worked out to a limit but there is no medicine that could be prescribed to cure the disease. While scientists are still working on its antidote, communicable diseases may take precedence since their rate of transmission is higher than this one.